Monday, November 11, 2013

Galatians. .Week 2. .Assignment

So. .I don’t know about you all. .
but I was fairly confused about the whole Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar dialogue.
So I googled it. .
and was directed to a very informative and in depth explanation. .
if you would like to read the whole document written by James A Fowler. .
you can find it here

 I opted to pull out the highlights to share. .
regarding Galatians  4:21-30. .it is long. .
but well worth a read if you are interested. .
If you are NOT interested. .just scroll to the bottom. .
The author did a nice job explaining the significance between the day of Abraham and the beliefs of the Jews concerning that. .I pretty much just highlighted the passages that made me go. .hmmmm. .ohhhhhh. .I GET it!  I actually studied the thoughts of several authors. .and they were all quite consistent, making me feel like these excerpts are accurate!!  I will tell you. .that just the understanding of the relevance in concepts. .has made it much easier to pay attention through that part too!! 

I will also highlighted the references to circumcision that had some of us confused in our email study last month. .
That concept went way deeper than I imagined as well!!
Enjoy the commentary. .you can’t imagine that the length of these excerpts is probably only a quarter of the original article J At the end of them, you will find a short summary from me (if you would rather just read that) and the goal of the week. .Enjoy!
~~Many commentators have complained that these verses are the most difficult or puzzling passage in Galatians, or even in the entirety of the New Testament. Such complaints are usually due to prior misconceptions based on faulty presuppositions which do not correspond with what Paul has written. Without a doubt this passage will be difficult and baffling to those unwilling to accept what Paul has written at face value, because they are attempting to protect invalid premises and impose a grid of biased theological interpretation upon the Scriptures. On the other hand, those who honestly accept what Paul writes will find his argument totally consistent with his Christ-centered emphasis throughout all of his writings. The Christocentric reinterpretation of old covenant history that Paul employs in this initial epistle becomes foundational for a proper understanding of all the rest of the Pauline literature, as well as for understanding the full spectrum and panorama of God's activity and intent in all of history and Scripture, contextualized as it is in Jesus Christ alone.
~~For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman." Actually, Abraham had eight known sons, six additional sons from his wife, Keturah, after Sarah had died (Gen. 25:1,2), but these are not pertinent to Paul's argument.   Let us review the pertinent historical narratives: God promised Abraham that he would have a son (Gen. 15:4). Abraham's wife, Sarah, was barren, so she suggested to Abraham that he do the next best thing (a logical alternative to trusting God's promises, that was culturally moral and acceptable), and take their Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, as another wife, in order to have a child. Abraham took his wife's advice, married Hagar, and she conceived and bore a son, Ishmael. Sarah was jealous (Gen. 16:1-4). God again promised Abraham that he would have a son through his wife, Sarah, but Abraham laughed because he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. Abraham appealed to God to accept Ishmael as his promised heir, but God refused (Gen. 17:15-20). Three messengers of God came to Abraham to confirm that he was going to have a son within a year. Listening through the tent-flap, Sarah laughed within, but subsequently denied that she had done so, and was corrected. "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" was the question asked of Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:9-15). As promised by God, Sarah conceived and bore a son despite her advanced age. They called his name Isaac, meaning "laughter" (Gen. 21:1-8).

~~The Judaizers, on the other hand, retaining certain ideas of Jewish privilege, were reluctantly allowing that Gentile converts who had received Jesus as the Messiah could somehow be identified as "sons of Abraham," provided the males received the physical mark of circumcision as was initiated with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14), and they all conformed to the Mosaic Law of Judaic religion. Paul is now prepared to turn the tables on the entire issue of the "sons of Abraham" by arguing that the connection of physicality with either Isaac or Ishmael is irrelevant, for it is the spiritual connection with the sons of Abraham that determines the difference.

~~ Ishmael, born of Hagar, came into being "according to the flesh." The phrase "according to the flesh" has been variously interpreted. It cannot mean natural, physical generation, because both sons were born through Abraham's physical intercourse with a woman, and the subsequent conception, gestation and birth.

~~ God had made a promise to Abraham that he would have a son with his wife, Sarah. God keeps His promises; He cannot lie (Numb. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). And what He promises, He is quite capable of performing (Gen. 18:14; Lk. 1:37; Rom. 4:21). When man takes matters into his own hands and attempts to help God out by trying to bring about God's promises by the human means and devices of self-effort, then he has acted "according to the flesh." A promise from God is not a challenge to man to assist God in bringing the promise to pass, despite the abominable religious clichés that say, "God helps those who help themselves;" "Do your best, and God will do the rest;" or "Just do something, and God will bless it." Religion is always replete with such encouragement to human planning and performance; human activity and attainment. The hallmark of religion is utilitarian human productivity, instead of ontological receptivity of God's activity in faith. Abraham acted "according to the flesh" when he listened to his wife instead of God, and chose what W. Ian Thomas has called "the reasonable alternative to faith"2, by thinking that he could perform and enact what could only be accomplished by God in fulfillment of His own promise.

~~ By contrast, "the son by the free woman (was born) through the promise." Isaac was born to Sarah in fulfillment of God's promise, without any self-orchestrated assistance on the part of Abraham. God's promises can only be enacted by His own activity. To illustrate that truth God acted against all odds to bring about the birth of Isaac from Sarah. God took Abraham who was "as good as dead" (Rom. 4:19) at one hundred years of age and Sarah with the "deadness of her womb" (Rom. 4:19) at ninety years of age, and supernaturally caused them to conceive Isaac in accord with His own promise. God's work done God's way by God's grace is the only way that God is glorified in His creation. What God desires from man is simply the dependent and contingent reliance of receptivity to His divine activity, allowing Him to be and do what He desires to be and do in each person. This is the faith that Abraham exemplified as the prototypical "father" of faith (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7,26) for all Christians.

~~The Jewish people, on the other hand, identified themselves as the "covenant-people" of God, based primarily on the Mosaic law-covenant given to Israel on Mt. Sinai. Paul's argument is that the promise-covenant given to Abraham finds its eternal fulfillment in the new covenant of Christ, while the law-covenant given to Moses found its temporary fulfillment in the interim period of the old covenant leading up to Christ ­ the external religious vestiges of which were disappearing (II Cor. 3:7-11) and becoming obsolete (Heb. 8:16) in Paul's world of the first century. Though arbitrary human interpretation of history has often attempted to divide time into numerous segments of covenantal arrangements, the Biblical perspective divides God's dealings between two primary covenants, the "old covenant" and the "new covenant" (I Cor. 11:25; II Cor 3:6; Heb. 7:22; 8:6-13; 9:15-20; 10:16,29; 12:24; 13:20),

~~ "one" covenant, the Mosaic Law-based old covenant, "came from Mount Sinai bearing children who are slaves; she is Hagar." This was the Hiroshima of Paul's battle with the Judaizers! Nothing would have been more unexpected and shocking to Judaic interpretation than to identify the old covenant Jewish religion with Hagar and her son, Ishmael. Jewish interpretation regarded the Jewish people as the chosen people of God, physically related to Abraham through Sarah and her son, Isaac; recipients of the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai in a unique and special covenant with God; and thus properly related religiously with "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." The Jews were proud of their physical heritage and descent from Abraham through Isaac. They regarded the despised Gentiles, and more particularly the Arab peoples of the Middle East (Gen. 25:13-18), as the physical descendants of Ishmael and Hagar, having no viable relationship with God apart from the Law (cf. Ps. 147:19,20), but languishing in the bondage of ignorance and sin; enemies of God's people (I Chron. 5:10,19,20; Ps. 83:6). The Arab people accepted their identification with Ishmael and Hagar, at least from the seventh century A.D. onwards, after Mohammed identified Muslims and Islam as descending from Abraham through Ishmael in the Koran. The Jewish interpretation was clear-cut: A person was either a Jew with physical and religious connection with Abraham through Isaac and Sarah, or a person was a Gentile (or an Arab) with physical and religious connection with Abraham through Ishmael and Hagar.

~~ In fact, Paul was dumping all human religion, whether Jewish religion, Arab religion, Chinese religion, Christian religion, etc., into the same hopper of enslaving performance. (It has already been noted that the English word "religion" is derived from the Latin word religare, meaning "to bind up," or "to tie back," thus enslaving a person to rules and regulations and rituals of devotion.) Hagar was a slave-girl in the household of Abraham and Sarah, with whom Abraham joined himself in performance "according to the flesh" (23). Slave-girls always gave birth to little slaves, delivered into the condition of slavery. In like manner, the Mosaic Law brought forth performance slaves to the Law, as the self-effort performance of religious bondage serves as "the logical alternative to faith."

~~ Paul links Hagar with Mount Sinai. This is a connection that no traditional Jewish interpreter would ever have made. The Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:1,2,19; Lev. 7:28; 26:42) was regarded as having set the Jewish people apart from all Gentiles as "the people of the Law." Hagar was regarded as the "mother of the Gentiles." So, Hagar and Mount Sinai had no connection, but were regarded as antithetical in Jewish thought. Paul, however, links Hagar and Mount Sinai in the commonality of slavery ­ Hagar was a slave-girl and Mount Sinai was the location where the slavery of Law-performance commenced.

~~ Paul is advising the Galatian Christians that the spiritual reality of the heavenly City of Peace is already available as the community of Christians in Christ. He does not refer to a "Jerusalem that is to come in the future," but to "the Jerusalem above that is presently free." That city and land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15) that was promised and anticipated is now realized in Jesus Christ.

~~ So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman." Identifying himself in the same spiritual family of God with the Galatian Christians, Paul reiterates that Christians are not related to the bondwoman, Hagar, in the slavery of religious performance. Therefore, they should not be listening to the Judaizers who would lead them back into the slavery of "elemental things" (4:3,9) and the slavery of Law-observance. They should not be "bewitched" (3:1), hoodwinked or mesmerized by the deceitful scheming of the Judaizers who would "shut them out" (4:17) from the blessing of grace in Christ and entrap them in religious dependency attachments. Paul wanted the Galatians to understand their true identity in Christ as "sons of Abraham" (3:7,29), "sons of promise" (4:28), "sons of God" (3:26), "sons of the free woman," Sarah, who bears children intended to operate in the freedom of God's grace activity. That is why this verse leads right into the next verse (5:1), where Paul begins the practical description of the behavioral implications of living by grace, by declaring, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free..." Paul was so keen that the Christians of Galatia should understand that they were free to be man as God intended man to be, by the dynamic grace of God's function within receptive humanity; i.e. by the life of the risen Lord Jesus living and reigning in them as Christians.

~~  When this letter was first read in the Galatian churches, this portion was, no doubt, the most shocking part of the correspondence. What a shock it must have been, particularly for the Judaizers who were listening, to hear Paul's radical Christocentric reinterpretation of Hebrew history, which, in essence, stood all Jewish interpretation of those same events on its head. It was absolutely inconceivable for them to think that Paul could identify the Jewish religion, the Judaizing half-brothers, and all religion with Hagar and Ishmael. Paul was not singling out the Jewish religion for more severe censure than others, but since that was the context out of which Christianity emerged, and since the Judaizers in Galatia retained a variation of that religion's legal performance-orientation, Judaism and the Judaizers become the focal point, though indicative of all religion in general. When Paul, the zealous Jewish Pharisee (Phil. 3:4-6), was converted from Judaism on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8; 22:6-11; 26:12-18), and the gospel of Christ was revealed to Him by the Spirit of Christ (Gal. 1:11,12), the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messianic fulfillment of all God's promises (II Cor. 1:20) demanded that he abandon all of his ingrained Judaic prejudice of divine privilege for the physical Jewish peoples, and all benefit of Jewish law-observance (Phil. 3:7-9). Paul saw and realized that Christians, those who are "in Christ" (II Cor. 5:17), regardless of ethnicity, economy or gender (Gal. 3:28), are the spiritual heirs of all the promises of God.

   In order to express the point in the most overt and obvious way, as well as the most striking and shocking way, Paul identifies the physical Judaic religion with Hagar and Ishmael, knowing full well that it was a major premise of Jewish interpretation that their enemies, the despised Arab/Gentiles, were physically connected to Ishmael. Paul was not referring to physical heritage, though, but to the spiritual connection of all performance-based religion "according to the flesh," in order to assert the spiritual connection of Christianity with Sarah and Isaac, "according to the promises" of God to Abraham. Without a doubt, Paul's denial of Jewish privilege and legal religious benefit would have been taken as a terrible insult, a slap in the face, by those Judaizing religionists who were without spiritual understanding (cf. I Cor. 2:14). But Paul felt compelled to make the point that the gospel is comprised of Jesus Christ alone; not Jesus Christ plus Jewish privilege, Jewish performance, Jewish sympathies, or Jewish expectations ­ a point that many Zionist religionists to this very day have failed to appreciate.

So. .if you opted not to read the above notes. .
my abbreviated version looks like this. .

Abraham and Sarah could have no children. .
God promised them multiple times that they would, indeed have children. .
they laughed, since they were very old. .
They waited a VERY long time. .
So long. .that in an attempt to fulfill God’s promises themselves
(sound like us. .trying to fix things instead of relying on God?)
Sarah sent Abraham to sleep with the Hagar the slave girl. .
She conceived and had a son Ishmael. .

Slave girls gave birth to baby slaves 100% of the time in those days. .
So. .trying to fulfill God’s promises by ourselves. .
in our way. .
as demonstrated by Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. .results in slavery. .
Sarah on the other hand. .
DID conceive a child as God’s PROMISE. .
without ANY orchestration from human knowledge or abilities. .
They accepted God’s promise. .
And those that are born of Abraham. .
are FREE, thanks to Christ.
Any one can be born of Abraham by faith. .
and the Jews. .
that were sure they were making God happy by going through all of their rules and regulations. .
were identified with HAGAR as slaves. .
instead of from Abraham, whom they THOUGHT they were “Sons” of. .
So they weren’t really free at all. .
because there was NO way. .
without faith in Christ. .
that they could EVER obey all the laws and work out their salvation by themselves.

I would recommend trying to clear your head. .
and reading the long version within this lesson. .
or the longer version online. .
to really get a good idea of the correlation.
And just another amazing reminder to this girl. .
as to how intricately the bible is woven together!!

So. .the assignment this week. .
Pick another translation this week to read from.  .
It would be nice for you to read a totally different one than you did last month. .
And, really. .
only asking you to read it once from a different version. .
doesn’t have to be for the whole week. .
so check biblegateway again for your choices. .

Get your notebook back out. .
Label a new page Attributes of God. .
and go through the book of Galatians. .
searching for who God says He is. .
Be prepared to share what you find next weekend!

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